The marriage hall was jampacked.The music from nadaswaram was unusually subdued but the dulcet music was soothing.It was an airconditioned hall with bearers carrying cool drinks to the guests who had assembled.The ladies were in their best attire.The smell of jasmine and sandalwood paste wafted across the hall.The bride groom Rakesh clad in yellow was sitting on a wooden plank along with his parents standing behind him.The pre-marriage ceremonies were over and the time for the tying of the knot(mangalya dharanam) was fast nearing.
Drowning the loud conversations from the guests and the music from the piper, the shrill voice of the purohit was heard clearly.”Call the bride soon.It is time .We hardly have 30 minutes.”
Sowmya’s mom was seen scurrying into one of the rooms.Minutes went past and she made no appearance.Inside the room her mom was pleading “You cannot do like this.Everyone is waiting.Please wipe your eyes and face and come out with a smile.We had after all arranged all this only after getting your approval.”
“What approval are you talking about? I have been right from the beginning against this .You are pushing me into this hell forcibly.I hate appa(dad) from the bottom of my heart. Why is he thrusting me into this unwiling marriage.For him only status and weath matter.He does not understand what love is or for that matter any finer sentiments.” Sowmya shrieked
But the boy Karthik whom you love though well qualified is from an ordinary lower middle class family without even a small house of their own.Your dad feels strongly that he is not suitable at all .Rakesh owns a big industry, very wealthy and well connected socially.. Please do not put us into embarassment at this stage” her mother argued
Sulochana aunty who was close to Sowmya gently led her out telling her it is too late to go back.She whispered in her ears”I hope everything will go well and you will be really happy.Please keep smiling as all are looking at you”
As Sowmya sat on the plank by the side of the groom, the purohit began the rituals.The mangalyam that passed around the audience for blessings came back and was given to Rakesh.An unwilling Sowmya sat on her dad’s lap with her neck bent for Rakesh to tie the knot.
It was then they heard a commotion in the hall..
The loud voice came from a young woman of Sowmya’s age who appeared to be haggard and in tears.When all eyes turned on her with Rakesh staring at her bewildered and shocked, she continued.
“You promised to marry me even last week Don’t you know that .I am carrying your child? Yet you have the cheek to marry another girl.I will not allow this to proceed come what may” she screamed
“I haven’t seen you at all in my life.What crap you are talking about? Where did I meet you and when? What is your name, you fraud?” Rakesh asked in anger
“You have the temerity to talk like this after cheating me and enjoying me for nearly a year.I am willing to go to any length to prove my case.Let us go to the police station.I am willing even for a DNA test”she shouted back.
There were audible whispers from among the guests accompanied by some giggling.Rakesh’s father turned to him and asked “What is all this nonsense? Do you know her? If not, let us call the police”
Even before he could answer Sowmya shouted ”Whatever they do,I will not marry this man.I do not want my marriage to start on a doubtful note.The marriage is off.”She turned to her dad and said “Appa, please call off the marriage.I am prepared to remain unmarried forever.”
Knowing Rakesh’s propensity for dalliance with girls,,Rakesh’s dad preferred not to get deeper into it.He hung his head in anger and shame as he marched out without a word with Rakesh and his mom in tow..The guests from their side took the hint and slowly dispersed.There was a look of uncertainity amongst the remaining guests.The purohit sat quiet with his face grim.The nadaswaram was silent.There was a strange silence and the atmosphere gloomy.
It was then Sowmya’s uncle, younger brother of her dad, approached his brother and whispered softly in his ear.”Why is it you are adamant and spoiling the life of an young girl,, your own daughter, all because of your bloated ego? Karthik is highly qualified and well employed.They both love each other.What if he is poor? By marrying your daughter and becoming your son-in-law he instantly acquires a status and also weath that you can bestow on him.The boy is here.Just give me your approval I will have him on the wooden plank to tie the knot within the auspicious hour.Please agree to me”
Sowmya’s mother looked at him plaintively.The father looking at his sobbing daughter and his affectionate brother relented..Immediately the nadswarram started playing and the purohit stood up chanting loud the mantras.The gaiety returned and all faces were wreathed in smiles.
On the seconday of marriage, when Sowmya and Karthik were alone in the garden, Sowmya’s uncle who came near them along with his wife Sulochana asked Sowmya with a twinkle in his eyes”How was the little drama at the marriage hall? I had to shell out Rs5000 to the starlet for my niece’s sake but the girl did her part well”